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How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals 2020

by show of hands how many of you believe you could replicate this image of Brad Pitt with just a pencil and piece of paper well I'm going to show you how to do this and in so doing I'm going to give you the skill necessary to become a world-class artist and it shouldn't take more than about 15 seconds

but before I do that how many of you believe you could replicate this image of a solid gray square every one of us and if you can make one gray square you can make two three nine truth of the matter is if you could make just one gray square it'd be very difficult to argue that you couldn't make every gray square necessary to replicate the image in its entirety and there you have it I've just given you

the skill necessary to become a world-class artist I know what you're thinking that's not real art certainly wouldn't make me a world-class artist so let me introduce you to Chuck Close so in the highest-earning artists in the entire world for decades and he creates his art using this exact technique you see what stands between us and achieving even our most ambitious dreams has far less to do with possessing some magical skill or talent and far more to do with how we approach problems and make decisions to solve them and because of the continuous and compounding nature of all those millions of decisions that we face on a regular basis even a marginal improvement in our process can have a

huge impact on our end results and I'll prove this to you by taking a look at the career of Novak Djokovic back in 2004 when he first became a professional tennis player who's ranked six hundred and eightieth in the world wasn't until the end of his third year that he jumped up to be ranked third third in the world he went for making 250,000 a year to 5 million a year in prize money alone and of course he did this by winning more matches in 2011 he became the number one ranked men's tennis

player in the world started earning an average of 14 million a year in prize money alone and winning it dominating 90% of his matches now here's what's really interesting about all of these very impressive statistics Novak doesn't control any of them what he does control are all the tiny little decisions that he needs to make correctly along the way in order to move the the probability in favor of him achieving these types of results and we can quantify and track his progress in this area by taking a look at the percentage of points that he wins because in tennis the typical point involves one two maybe three decisions I like to refer to this as his decision success rate so back when he was

winning about 49 percent of the point the matches he was playing he was winning about 49 percent of the points he played then to jump up become number three in the world and actually earned five million dollars a year for swinging a racquet he had to improve his decision success rate to just 52 percent then to become not just number one but maybe one of the greatest players to ever play the game he had to improve his decision success rate to just 55 percent and I keep using this word just I don't want to imply this is easy to do clearly it's not but the type of marginal improvements that I'm talking about are easily achievable by every single one of us in this room and I'll show you what I mean from kindergarten all the way through to my high school graduation yes that's high school

graduation for me every one of my report cards basically said the same thing Stevens a very bright young boy if only he would just settle down and focus what they didn't realize was I wanted that even more than they wanted it for me I just couldn't and so from kindergarten straight through the second year of college I was a really consistent cc- student but then going into my junior year I'd had enough I thought I want to make a change I'm gonna make a marginal adjustment and I'm going to stop being a spectator of my decision-making and start becoming an active part and so that year instead of pretending again that I would suddenly be able to settle down and focus on things for more than five or ten minutes at a time I decided to assume I wouldn't and so if I wanted to achieve the type of

outcome that I desired doing well in school I was going to actually have to change my approach and so I made a marginal adjustment if I would get an assignment let's say read five chapters in a book I wouldn't think of it as five chapters I wouldn't even think of it as one chapter I would break it down into these tasks that I could achieve that would require me to focus for just five or ten minutes at a time so maybe three or four paragraphs that's it I would do that when I was done with those five or

ten minutes I would get up I'd go shoot some hoops do a little drawing maybe play video games for a few minutes and then I come back not necessarily the same assignment not even necessarily to the same subject but just to another task that required just 5 to 10 minutes of my attention from that point forward all the way through to graduation I was a straight-a student Dean's List President's Honor Roll every semester I then went on to one of the top graduate programs in the world for finance and economics same approach same results so then I graduate I start my career and I'm thinking this worked really well for me you know you take these big concepts these complex ideas these big assignments you break them down to much more manageable tasks and then along the way you make a marginal improvement to the process you know the odds of success in your favor I'm gonna try and

do this in my career so I did I started out as an exotic derivatives trader or credit Swiss it then led me to be global head of currency option trading for Bank of America global head of emerging markets for AIG international it helped me deliver top-tier returns as a global macro hedge fund manager for 12 years and to become founder and CIO of two award-winning hedge funds so it gets the 2001 and I'm thinking this whole idea it worked really well in school it's been served well as professional why aren't I applying this in my personal life like to all those big ambitious goals I have for myself so one day I'm walking to work and at the time my my commute was a walk from one end of Hyde Park to

the other in London it took me about 45 minutes each way hour and a half a day seven and a half hours a week 30 hours a month three hundred and sixty hours a year when I was awake aware basically wasting time listening to music on my iPod so my way home from work that day I stopped at the store I picked up the first 33 CDs in the Pimsleur German language program ripped them and put them onto my ipod but I didn't stop there because the truth of the matter is I'm an undisciplined person and I knew that at some point I'd switch away from the language and go back to the music so I removed that temptation by removing all of the music they left me with just one option listen to the language tapes so 10 months later I'd listened to all 99 CDs in the German language program listened to each one three times each they went to Berlin for a 16 day intensive German course when I was done I invited my wife and kids to meet me we walked around the city I spoke German to the Germans they spoke German back to me my kids were amazed I mean that couldn't close their jaws but you and I we know there's actually nothing amazing about what I just done I made this marginal adjustment to my daily routine this marginal adjustment to my process which gets expression I'm Missi indulge and now I could speak some German and so in that moment I'm thinking it's not supposed to be this easy for a guy like me an old guy to learn a new language is supposed to have to

do that when you're a kid and yet here I had done it this marginal adjustment so what other big ambitious goals have been holding on to putting off until retirement that I could potentially achieve if I just made a marginal adjustment to my routine so I started doing I earned my auto racing license I learned how to fly a helicopter the rock-climbing skydiving I learned how to fly planes aerobatic ly well if you're like me back in 2007 you might have the same goal I had I was just moving back from London it was about 25 pounds overweight and out of shape and I wanted to rectify that so I could go to the typical route you know I could write a check to a gym I'd never go to or I could swear to myself that I will never again eat those foods that I love but are doing all the damage and I knew that going that route rarely results in the outcome you desire so I decided to become an active participant and I thought about the habits and passions that I've developed over the course of my life and I thought can I make just a marginal adjustment to them so that they work in my favor as opposed to against me and so I did I've got this habit where I've been walking an hour and a half a day for the

last seven years and I've got this passion for being in the outdoors and so that year I didn't actually set the new year's resolution to lose 25 pounds I said a resolution to hike all 33 trails in the front country of Santa Barbara's mountains and I'd never been on a hike before in my life but the truth in matter is it's not about the 33 trails you have to break this big ambitious goal down into these more manageable decisions the types of decisions that need to be made correctly along the way in order to improve the odds of achieving the type of outcome you desire it's not about even one trail it's about those tiny little decisions you know like when you're sitting at your desk putting in just a little extra time at the end of a day or you're lying on your couch and you're clicking through the channels on your remote control or scrolling through your Facebook feed and in that moment you make the decision to put it down you go put on your hiking clothes you go walk outside your front door and you shut it behind

you you walk to your car you get in your car you drive to the trailhead you get out of the car at the trailhead and you take one step you take two steps three steps every one of those steps that have just described is a tiny little decision that needs to be made correctly along the way order to achieve the ultimate outcome now when I say I want to hike 33 trails in the funk country people think about the decisions at the top of the mountain that's not what it's about because if you don't make the right decision when you're on the couch there is no decision that occurs at the top of the mountain so by the end of the year I had hiked all 33 trails in the front country I did him a couple of times each I even did a few in the back country I lost the 25 pounds when I capped the year off by doing the hardest half marathon in the world the pr2 peak in 2009 I got really ambitious ambitious for a guy who still to

this day cannot settle down and focus on anything for more than five or ten minutes at a time and that was to read 50 books but again it's not about reading 50 books it's not even about reading one book it's not about reading a chapter a paragraph a sentence it's about that decision when you're sitting at your desk at the end of the day or when you're lying on the couch or flicking through your Facebook feed and you put down the phone you pick up a book and you read one word if you read one word you'll read two words three words you'll read a sentence a paragraph a page a chapter a book you'll read ten books thirty books fifty books in 2012 I got really ambitious I said 24 new year's resolutions 12 of them were to wear what I call giving resolutions where I did 12 charitable things that didn't

involve writing a check but it's not without its failures I tried to donate blood and they rejected me because I'd lived in the UK I tried to donate my sperm they rejected me because I was too old I tried to donate my hair and they turns out nobody wants grey hair so here I was trying to do something to make myself feel good and it was having the opposite effect so anyway I've also had these twelve learning resolutions to learn twelve new skills and when I was done with unicycling parkour slacklining jumping stilts and drumming my wife suggested I learned how to knit and I'll be honest I wasn't all that passionate about knitting but one day I'm sitting under this forty foot tall eucalyptus tree that's 2.6 miles up the cold spring trail in Santa Barbara and I'm thinking that tree would look really cool if it were covered in yarn and so I went home and I googled this and it turns out this is a thing people do it's called yarn bombing you wrap these public structures with the yarn and the second annual international yarn bombing day was just 82 days away so for the next 82 days no matter where I was if I was in a board meeting on the trading floor in an airplane or in the hospital I was knitting one stitch at a time in 82 days later I had done my first ever yarn bomb and the response to it Lumi away so I kept going with bigger more ambitious projects that required more engineering skills and in 2014 I set the goal to wrap six massive boulders in Los Padres National Forest at the top of the mountains but if I was going to pull this off I'd need help so at this point that had a few thousand followers on social media as the yarn bomber and I started getting packages lots of packages 388 contributors from 36 countries in all 50 states in the end I didn't wrap one massive Boulder I wrap 18 so I kept going with bigger more ambitious projects that would required me to work with new materials like fiberglass and wood and metals which culminates in a project that is

currently at TMC here in Tucson where I wrapped the Children's Hospital along the way I stopped knitting I never really liked it but I like crocheting so I started making these seven inch screen II squares because that's the standard granny square and I thought along the way why am i stopping at 7 inches I need big stuff so I started making bigger Frannie squares one day I come home from a business trip and I've got this really large granny and I went to the web site of Guinness I was curious what's the world's largest granny square and it turns out there's no category for it so I applied and they rejected me so I appealed and they rejected me I appealed again and they said fine if you make it 10 meters by 10 meters we'll create a new category and you will be a Guinness world record holder so for the next two years 7 months 17 days one stitch of the time I finally reached more than half a

million stitches incorporated more than 30 miles of yarn and I am now the official Guinness world record holder for the largest crocheted granny's along the way I've garnered an awful lot of attention for my escapades I've been featured in Newsweek magazine Eric news which kind of the Bible for artists but what I want you to realize when you hear these things I'm still that c- student I'm still that kid who can't settle down or focus for more than five or ten minutes at a time and I remain a guy who possesses no special gift of talent or skill all I do is take really big ambitious projects that people seem to marvel at break them down to their simplest form and then just make marginal improvements along the way to improve my odds of achieving them and so the whole reason I'm giving this talk is I'm hoping to inspire several of you to pull some of those ambitious dreams that you have for yourself off the bookshelf and start pursuing them by making that marginal adjustment to your routine thank you